Friday, February 03, 2006

National Security, The New York Times, And The Espionage Act

Gabriel Schoenfeld, writing in Commentary, examines the question that should have been the hot topic in the mainstream media for the past month: did the New York Times violate the Espionage Act in printing James Risen's story about surveillance of international calls and emails from al Qaeda suspects to people inside the United States?

Schoenfeld notes that James Risen and the editors at the NYT admitted that they knew the material was classified and that publication would threaten national security. In other words, they willfully committed an act contrary to the interests of the country for personal profit (and if you want to read the Gray Lady's article now, you'll have to pay for the privilege).

Exploring historical incidents and court precedents, Schoenfeld reaches his conclusion:
The real question that an intrepid prosecutor in the Justice Department should be asking is whether, in the aftermath of September 11, we as a nation can afford to permit the reporters and editors of a great newspaper to become the unelected authority that determines for all of us what is a legitimate secret and what is not. Like the Constitution itself, the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of the press are not a suicide pact. The laws governing what the Times has done are perfectly clear; will they be enforced?
Likely the Times' defense team would 'graymail' the Justice Department by threatening to demand other vital classified information be entered into evidence. If the Gray Lady would betray her country for money, why not do it again to avoid the consequences?

Via Stop the ACLU.

Also posted at The Jawa Report and Vince Aut Morire.

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